Students at Irving College started the school year Wednesday with a new gym, a new cafeteria, and the familiar face of 49-year teacher Betty Clendenon.
A $3.3 million renovation and expansion project at Irving College was complete just in time for the new school year, giving students a spacious gym with a full-sized basketball court and a cafeteria complete with booths and high-top tables.
“This is the difference between night and day,” said Irving College PE teacher Colleen Burton while showing students how to hula-hoop in the new gym. “I love everything about this. It’s beautiful, nice, clean. It’s just exciting to be in here.”
It was a similar atmosphere in the new cafeteria where students flocked to booths and the high-top tables as welcome additions to the lunchroom.
“We try to make it as relaxing of an environment as possible,” said principal Rachel Graves.
Students enjoyed their first day of lunch and the fresh options available. Second-grader Hailey York ate a salad, while Cody Darnell scarfed down apple slices.
Clendenon said today’s air-conditioned school is a vast improvement to when she began her teaching career at Irving College 49 years ago. She has spent her entire professional career at the school, in addition to graduating there in 1964.
“I had 39 third-graders in my class that first year and my classroom was in the back of an auditorium,” said Clendenon, who noted the auditorium was in a building on the Irving College campus which is no longer standing. “I asked for an actual classroom so they tore up the first 10 rows of the auditorium seats, put up a partition, and that was my classroom. I used chairs they found in an old house and my chalkboard had huge chunks out of it.”
Clendenon said the main difference between her early years of teaching and the classrooms of today is the amount of resources available to educators.
“When I first started, if we could get our hands on something, we hung onto it,” she said.
As for overall enrollment in the Warren County School System, there are about 300 more students this year than after the first day last year. According to Director of Schools Bobby Cox, there were 6,350 students in attendance during the first day Wednesday. That’s compared to 6,068 the first day in 2015.
Cox said that number could increase in the coming days as his figures show 6,662 students are scheduled to attend Warren County Schools.
WCHS saw the biggest leap in enrollment, an increase of 121 students from the first day last year. WCMS saw the biggest decrease, a drop of 47 students.
As for the first two days of school, Cox said they have gone well.
“We haven’t had any major traffic issues and everything seems to be running smoothly,” said Cox. “I’ve been able to visit every school so far except for Centertown and Dibrell and I’ll visit them next week.”
While things have been going well in Warren County classrooms, an online video that shows two local teachers partying off campus caught the attention of a Nashville TV station, which aired a report Wednesday night.
Cox said the teachers didn’t break any laws or school system policies and the situation has been addressed.
“Social media is a great thing, but once you post something it’s out there,” said Cox. “You should always be cautious and use good judgment.”
Bobby Ray 522
Hickory Creek 644
Irving College 220
Warren Acad. 18
WCHS Annex 36
PreK system wide 160